Erik Chisholm was the leading Scottish modernist composer and a promoter of modernist music of international significance. He was also a vital force in the revival of operas.
He brought Bartok, Hindemith and Casella to Scotland, rescued Walton in a performance of Facade; and it was for him Sorabji deigned to perform his Opus Clavicembalisticum. He was a founder of the Celtic Ballet.
In his compositions, his knowledge and use of Scottish traditional music remains unsurpassed. He was the first composer to absorb Celtic idioms into his music in form as well as content, his achievement paralleling that of Bartok in its depth of understanding and its daring.
His imaginative fertility and idiomatic adventure chased a restless muse whether in Scotland, the Far East or South Africa.
At a personal level, Chisholm saw himself as a Scot and an internationalist. He had strong left-wing leanings and a mind open to quality. He was reckless in his energies, ruthless in driving others towards achievements they scarcely thought possible, and he paid the price with his early death. His astonishing legacy as a composer and entrepreneur has never been properly presented, never mind assessed.
Music literally poured out of Erik Chisholm. Certainly we have been left with an enormous and excitingly varied legacy. Murray McLachlan, The Piano 2003.
He’s been called MacBartok. MacLiszt would fit too. But Chisholm is his own man. Geoff Brown, The Times 2002.
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